NEXT UP ON this.
Breakups are hard. And we all know why: the most important person in your life — the one who helped you deal with the good, the bad and everything in between — isn’t there to help you deal with this huge loss because they are the cause of the loss.
Dealing with a breakup can be a rollercoaster of emotions and it can take a long time to recover — some research suggests as much as six months. In the meantime, less-than-helpful post-breakup habits can become your new normal. If you’ve ever stalked an ex on social media or stayed in bed for an entire weekend binging on Netflix, you know what we’re talking about.
While it’s important to allow yourself time to process your emotions (which usually differ depending on whether you were the one who ended the relationship or not) and make sense of them, it’s beneficial in the long run to do so in a healthy way, says Associate Professor Gery Karantzas from Deakin University’s School of Psychology.
If you weren’t the one who called it quits, especially if it was your first serious relationship, it’s tempting to cling to the idea that you’ll reconcile with your ex-partner and it can be hard to know how to get over a breakup. Circumstances like a shared workplace or shared custody of children or pets can also reactivate feelings of hurt, anger and sadness.
Cue: angry text messages, awkward face-to-face confrontations and stalking your ex on social media. Some research suggests a whopping 90% of people use Facebook to keep tabs on their exes.
‘It’s a problem if people still continue to wish or have a wanting for the relationship to have continued, or if they’re wanting to reconnect with a partner when clearly the partner doesn’t want the relationship to continue,’ Assoc. Prof. Karantzas says.
He advises the best way to get over a breakup and create a positive headspace in which to move forward is to develop a clear understanding of why the relationship ended.
‘Sometimes a relationship ends and people are confused as to why it ended or how it ended,’ Assoc. Prof. Karantzas says. ‘People need to come to a clear understanding of why it ended the way it did — it may not happen immediately, but it’s important that it happens.’
Understandably, most people turn to close friends to aid breakup recovery. The trouble is that it can be tempting to seek out the wrong kind of people — you know, the friends who bag out your ex and reinforce negative feelings.
'People need to come to a clear understanding of why it ended the way it did — it may not happen immediately, but it’s important that it happens.'
Assoc. Prof. Gery Karantzas,
School of Psychology, Deakin University
‘Sometimes people surround themselves with other people who feed into their distress, buy into their feeling sorry for themselves or continue to direct animosity towards the ex-partner,’ Assoc. Prof. Karantzas says.
Slipping into the habit of depending on friends for emotional support in the same way as you relied on your partner is another common trap.
‘Turning to people for social support to the extent where we are stifling our independence and ability to get ourselves back up off the ground, if it goes on for a really long time, can start to become a problem,’ Assoc. Prof. Karantzas says.
The solution? Kickstart healthy breakup habits by spending time with friends who provide empathy as well as perspective. ‘We’re usually more open to what good, trusted friends have to say to us, even though to start with we might find it a bit hard to accept what they’re saying,’ Assoc. Prof. Karantzas says.
Figuring out how to get over a breakup can be a lot harder if you’re sleeping too much or too little, swapping fresh food for frozen pizza and forgetting to exercise.
While there’s nothing wrong with lounging around in bed with a tub of ice-cream for a few days, Assoc. Prof. Karantzas says that in the long term, getting back to a healthy lifestyle will make a big difference to breakup recovery.
‘Self-care is really important, whether that involves a healthy diet, exercise or good sleep,’ he says. ‘All of these things matter in helping with recovery because they help us realise that there’s a valuable, meaningful life that goes on with or without a particular person in it.’
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